A Walk On The Wild Side

Art credit: “Begin!” © SeRaiel Grace Mantle 2002

I see my grandmother and her neighbors bent over at the waist, leaning, digging, gathering dandelion leaf, flower, seed and root — all in season, for food, medicine and fun — all as a matter of course. 

More often now, we go to the grocery store, or the farmer’s market, the co-op, maybe even the farm. Everything packaged and marked up: coffee for our bitter, wine to relax, flowers for the table and salve for what ails. Grandmother gathered it all from her back yard. Wildcrafting is as old as the hills you pick those berries from, and a joy to partake in. How can we do it responsibly, with respect and reverence for our grandmother’s grandmothers and the hills on which they walked?

Take a walk with me now, through your own neighborhood. Rosehips, mint, lemon balm, Echinacea, chicory, berries. You may find them growing wild next door. Bring a hat, some clippers, maybe a small shovel, a basket, and some eagerness to talk to your neighbors over the fence. Ask permission, always and first — from the plant, and from your neighbor (I bet she’d love for you to prune her crop and return with some delicious concoctions of tea, salve, baked goods). That dandelion my grandmother picked, it's still there: Roasted fall roots for “coffee," spring leaves are bitters for your salad, and summer flower petals garnish your soup and bejewel your muffin batter.

Did you know that fir, spruce, and pine tips are not only edible, but also nutritious? Boasting high vitamin-C and anti-microbial properties, those bright green, new spring growths make a great tea or, steeped in honey on a sunny windowsill for a few weeks, a magickal medicine.

We can cultivate what we want in pots on the windowsill or in what grandmother called a kitchen garden — a small plot just off the back stoop. We can share what we grow with neighbors and friends. I make an all-purpose salve with herbs grown only in my back yard. It took many years to establish, and I have the privilege of having my own back yard, but, now, like my grandmother before me, I bend over at the waist and pick straight from the earth that which heals us.

Sue Burns is on staff at Mother Tongue Ink, publishers of creative work by women, celebrating earth-based spirituality and visions for a changing world. Reprinted with permission from We'Moon 2015: Wild Card Astrological Datebook. © We’Moon 2014. Visit www.wemoon.ws.